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Flu variant that hits kids and seniors harder than other strains is dominant in U.S. right now

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A sign advertising flu shots is displayed at a Walgreens pharmacy on January 22, 2018 in San Francisco, California. A strong strain of H3N2 influenza has claimed the lives of 74 Californians under the age of 65 since the flu season began in October of last year.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

A variant of the flu that hits kids and seniors worse than other strains of the virus is dominant in the U.S. right now, setting the country up for a potentially bad flu season.

Public health labs have detected influenza A(H3N2) in 76% of the more than 3,500 respiratory samples that have tested positive for the flu and were analyzed for the virus subtype, according to a surveillance report published Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The H3N2 variant has been associated with more severe flu seasons for children and the elderly in the past, according to Dr. Jose Romero, director the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease.

“There are also early signs of influenza causing severe illness in precisely these two groups of individuals this season,” Romero told reporters on a call earlier this month.

The flu hospitalization rate has surged to a decade high this season. Overall, about 8 people per 100,000 are being hospitalized with the flu right now but seniors and the youngest children are much harder hit than other age groups, according to CDC data.

The hospitalization rate for seniors is more than double the general population at 18 per 100,000. For kids younger than age five, the hospitalization rate is about 13 per 100,000.

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At least 4.4 million people have fallen ill with the flu, 38,000 have been hospitalized, and 2,100 have died since the season started. Seven kids have died from the flu so far this season.

“When we have more H3N2, we usually have a more severe flu season — so longer duration, more children affected, more children with severe disease,” said Dr. Andi Shane, a pediatrician and infectious disease expert at Children’s Healthcare Atlanta.

The other influenza A variant, H1N1, is generally associated with less severe seasons compared with H3N2, Shane said. H1N1 makes up about 22% of sample that have tested positive for flu and were analyzed for a subtype, according to CDC.

The percentage of patients reporting symptoms similar to the flu, a fever of 100 degrees or greater plus a sore throat or cough, is the highest in Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama and Washington D.C right now, according to CDC.

Respiratory illnesses are also very high in Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, New Jersey, Maryland, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina and Texas, according to CDC.

The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months or older get a flu shot. Children younger than age 8 who are receiving the vaccine for the first time should get two doses for the best protection.

The flu vaccine is normally 40% to 60% effective at preventing illness, but people who do still get sick are less likely to end up in the hospital or die, according to the CDC.

Public health officials are also encouraging people to stay home when they are sick, cover coughs and sneezes and wash hands frequently. Those who want to take extra precautions can consider wearing a facemask indoors in public.



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Kim Kardashian, Floyd Mayweather crypto scam lawsuit dismissed

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A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a proposed class action lawsuit by investors against the founders of the cryptocurrency EthereumMax, as well as celebrity endorsers including Kim Kardashian and boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. over their promotion of the cryptocurrency on social media.

Investors who bought EMAX tokens alleged they had suffered losses after taking the word of the celebrity influencers about the value of the crypto. The suit claims the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to artificially inflate the value of the EMAX tokens.

Judge Michael Fitzgerald wrote that he recognized that the lawsuit’s claims raised legitimate worries about “celebrities’ ability to readily persuade millions of undiscerning followers to buy snake oil with unprecedented ease and reach.”

“But, while the law certainly places limits on those advertisers, it also expects investors to act reasonably before basing their bets on the zeitgeist of the moment,” wrote Fitzgerald, of the Central District of California.

The judge found that the plaintiffs’ allegations were insufficiently backed, especially “given the heightened pleading standards” for fraud claims, according to his ruling in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

In addition to Kardashian, Mayweather and former Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce, the defendants in the case included Steve Gentile and Giovanni Perone, the co-founders of EthereumMax, and Justin French, a consultant and developer for the cryptocurrency, court documents state.

Fitzgerald in his ruling said he would allow lawyers for the plaintiffs to refile their suit after amending some of their claims under a number of the statutes cited in the original complaint, which included the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, also known as RICO.

“We’re pleased with the court’s well-reasoned decision on the case,” Michael Rhodes, a lawyer for Kardashian, told CNBC.

The dismissal came weeks after investors in fallen crypto exchange FTX filed a class-action lawsuit against former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried and celebrity advertisers for the company, among them NFL superstar Tom Brady, for allegedly overstating the value of the crypto tokens in promotional messaging.

And the ruling came two months after Kardashian agreed to pay $1.26 million, and not to promote cryptocurrency for three years, to settle claims by the SEC for her failure to disclose a $250,000 payment touting EthereumMax on her Instagram account.

Fitzgerald in his ruling Wednesday said the EthereumMax lawsuit reflects a broader conflict surrounding celebrity and influencer promotional schemes.

“This action demonstrates that just about anyone with the technical skills and/or connections can mint a new currency and create their own digital market overnight,” Fitzgerald wrote in his dismissal.

Investors sued EthereumMax and its celebrity advertisers in January after a slew of influencers started snagging sponsorships to promote cryptocurrencies to their millions of social media followers.

Kardashian’s Instagram post in June 2021 had written, “Are you guys into crypto??? This is not financial advice but sharing what my friends told me about the Ethereum Max token.”

Her post included “#ad” at the bottom, indicating she had been sponsored. But it did not disclose her $250,000 payment from EthereumMax.

Mayweather promoted EMAX at a boxing match and a large Miami bitcoin conference in June 2021.

But by January, the cryptocurrency had lost 97% of its value.

Fitzgerald at a hearing last month indicated he was inclined to dismiss the case.

Bloomberg News, in an article about that hearing, said that an attorney for the plaintiffs in the suit asked the judge to allow him to revise the suit’s racketeering claims to show how the statements by the celebrity defendants harmed the investors.

“If plaintiffs had known the true facts related to the promoters’ financial interest in the tokens, and that they were being paid to shill these tokens, they wouldn’t have paid as much for the tokens as they did,” the attorney, John Jasnoch, told Fitzgerald, according to a transcript cited by Bloomberg.



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Cathie Wood says the Fed is making a serious mistake as bond market flashes worst signal since 1980s

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How the U.S. became a global corn superpower

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The United States has just about 90 million planted acres of corn, and there’s a reason people refer to the crop as yellow gold.

In 2021, U.S. corn was worth over $86 billion, according to calculations from FarmDoc and the United States Department of Agriculture.

According to the USDA, the U.S. is largest consumer, producer and exporter of corn in the world.

“We’re really good at [corn production],” Seth Meyer, chief economist at the USDA, told CNBC. “And that’s why you see big acres, big demand, export competitiveness.”

It’s not just what we eat.

“We turbocharged the value of corn through the application of science,” Scott Irwin, agricultural economist and professor at the University of Illinois, told CNBC.

Corn is in what we buy, including medications and textiles, and corn is turned into ethanol, which helps to fuel cars across the nation.

The rest of the world relies on U.S. corn, too. 

At $2.2 billion in 2019, corn is the most heavily subsidized of all crops in the country.

“A lot of these subsidies … do get embedded into the cost of farmland and they essentially bid up the price of farmland marginally,” Joseph Glauber, senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute and former USDA chief economist, told CNBC. “So the benefits accrue largely to those who own land.”

The federal crop insurance program’s net spending is forecast to increase to nearly $40 billion from 2021 through 2025, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

At the same time, farmland values have reached all-time record highs.

“Do we get the corn acres because we’ve got the support, or do we have the support because we have the corn acres?” Meyer said, posing the chicken-and-egg question about the nation’s grain superpower.

Watch the video above to learn more about how corn fuels the U.S. economy from its people to its vehicles, the power of the corn belt states, the role of subsidies and where government policy for the industry may go from here.



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